updated 08/31/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/31/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

BEAST ACTRESS: Elizabeth Taylor can count more than a few gems in her dazzling screen career, but she won't. "A Place in the Sun is one of the few movies I've made that I don't mind," she tells Gary Collins in a week-long interview on TV's Hour Magazine next month. "I really hate a lot of them." Place, a 1951 drama based on Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, paired her with Montgomery Clift in an ill-fated rich girl/poor boy romance. "It was the first time I had the chance to play a mature person, instead of a young girl making love to a horse...or a dog," she says. Nothing personal, Lassie and National Velvet's Pi.

SMALL COMFORT: May this be the last thing you have to hear about Elvis Presley (his music excluded) until the next anniversary of his death. At the Las Vegas Hilton tribute to Presley, hosted by his former manager, Col. Tom Parker, now 78, a reporter asked Parker about Elvis' ballooning weight (as high as 255 lbs.) in his last years. "He complained one night to me. He was kind of unhappy about it," said Parker, according to the Los Angeles Times. So the colonel hastened to reassure him. "You could be a big performer," he told Elvis. "Look at Kate Smith."

NAKED TALENT: When sneering rocker Billy Idol completed his 50-city tour two weeks ago without an arrest—and dressed—it was by the skin of his, uh, teeth. In Houston unshy Billy wandered onstage before his show wearing nothing but a precariously draped towel. But what's that compared to his Detroit gig, during which he split his pants—and revealed his disdain for underwear? Or the Boston bit, where he simply dropped his pants for a full frontal shot—and thereby sold out the next day's performance? "I don't know why these things keep happening," says Idol innocently. "I guess it's just my sexual gravitational pull." Yeah, Billy, let's get physics-cal.

THE VATICAN RAG: To celebrate Pope John Paul II's visit to the Polish-Catholic community of Hamtramck, Mich. (pop. 27,000), on September 19, the mayors of Hamtramck and two nearby towns, along with a professional singing group, The Gaylords, cut a record called V.I.P. Polka. The nonreligious ditty will be played up until the Pope arrives but has been deemed too silly for John Paul to actually hear. Part of a typical verse: "Mama's gonna bake a special cake/ Poonchki and pierogi she will make." The first 500 cassettes sold out (at $2.50 each), so another 10,000 were ordered. Proceeds will go toward final payments for and maintenance of Hamtramck's John Paul II statue. Robert Kazoren, the town's mayor, is not surprised at sales. "It has a good tune with a snappy beat," he says. Dick Clark, are you listening?

FATHER KNOWS LESS: Jackie Collins, author of the sex-filled Hollywood Wives and Hollywood Husbands, won't apologize for the juice in her fat tales of the movie city. "I never worry about what my maiden aunt or my spinster cousin is going to think, or I'd never get it written," she told London's Daily Mail. "The day my father can read my work is the day I stop working. He is completely and utterly shocked by my novels." Sister Joan, of course, lives them.

OUT OF THE SWIM: Remember Bette Midler's mermaid suit that all but swam away with the stage show during her Clams on the Half Shell Revue in the mid-'70s? That very same fabulous green sequined tail is on exhibit at the National Geographic Society Explorers Hall in Washington. It's part of a show devoted to mermaid lore, Tale of the Mermaid, which started at the Philadelphia Maritime Museum. How does Bette feel about shedding her scales? Not so bad. Says she: "There comes a time when you have to let your clothes go out in the world and try to make it on their own."

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